This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.
If you have more than one child, chances are that you have dealt with some sibling squabbles. Children don’t want to fight. However, just as with any other behavior, there is always a reason for the fighting. As a parent, sibling bickering is a big, red, flashing sign that they need your help. So why do kids, who are supposed to love one another, fight?
Unmet Needs. It is difficult to always see another’s point of view when your own needs are not met. Sometimes kids (and parents) are tired, grumpy, hungry, sad, hurt, cold, hot, lacking attention, or something else. When you have two or more people, the needs of each can seem to conflict with one another. As a parent trying to meet the needs of multiple children , conflicting needs can seem to pop up as soon as the second child comes along and suddenly someone has to wait. Sometimes the needs of one child conflict seem to conflict with the needs of the other child.
What can you do? Work to make certain all needs are met. Sometimes this can be done preemptively. For instance, have snacks handy to keep hunger at bay or help everyone calm down before bed and get enough rest before everyone reaches over-tired, cranky status. Other times, you will be working in a triage setting, dealing with needs that have turned into issues. Whatever you do, remember to connect first and then try to address the needs behind the behaviors.
Unresolved Conflicts and Power Status. There may be times when you think everyone is getting along on the surface but underneath their is a storm brewing. If there is an unresolved conflict or resentment on the part of one child, their relationship is probably teetering on the edge. Once precariously balanced, it doesn’t take much to push it over into a downward turn. If a child’s need for attention and connection from a parent are not being met, that child may view their sibling as competition for your love and attention.
What can you do? When families are in discord, it is a warning sign that everyone needs your help. Make certain that everyone is being treated respectfully and that they feel that way. Use active listening to help everyone be heard and understood as you work through conflicts together.
Different Personalities. Sometimes two children will have such drastically different personalities that they butt heads a lot. Sometimes two children will have such drastically similar personalities they will butt heads a lot. Sometimes your own personality will play a role in this disconnect, and sometimes how you model relating with your children will make those differing personalities feel in greater conflict.
What can you do? You can’t change someone’s personality, but you can help them develop the skills they need to see someone else’s point of view, empathize with others, and work together through conflicts.
Working Through Bad Situations. Sometimes the fighting between two children has nothing to do with the relationship between the two children. When bad things happen to kids, whether on a seemingly minor scale or on a grander scale, it is a natural tendency to try and work through that situation, often by acting it out with others. A parent’s love and attention is a hot commodity. If a child’s needs for connection and attention aren’t being met, the child may be jealous of any attention the other child receives, even if it is only perceived.
What can you do? When someone is dealing with a bad situation, listen. The first step to understanding a problem is to actively listen. When someone is feeling helpless, they need to know someone cares. They need to be heard. Once you understand what is going on, you can help with the situation.
Disconnection. Just as we need to connect with our children in order to foster a good relationship with them, our children need to connect with one another in order to build that happy sibling relationship. When children don’t feel connected to siblings, they often find it difficult to view the other person’s point of view or empathize.
What can you do? With each person added to a family, you multiply the number of relationships in that family. No longer are you just concerned about connecting with your child, other family members also need to feel connected with one another. Make certain your family has time to connect together with family time and activities. No matter how busy everyone gets, remember that family comes first.
Interested in reading more about the concepts in the fifth chapter of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings? Check out these posts by Natural Parent Network volunteers:
Conflict Resolution for Kids Julia talks about some of the different ways to achieve peace at A Little Bit of All of It.
Time Is My Kryptonite For Peaceful Parenting Here are a few things Kat at MomeeZen has found helpful to manage peaceful parenting even when there seems to not be enough time.
Why Conflict is Good for Kids At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy talks about why conflict can be a good thing for kids.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Chapter 5: Teaching Conflict Resolution Emily talks about focusing on helping your children communicate rather than forcing them to just “get along,” even when it is hard work.